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Theatre / Mamma Mia!

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"Typical, isn't it? You wait 20 years for a dad and then three come along at once. "

Mamma Mia! is a hit stage musical based around the music of ABBA. It was made into a 2008 film.

The plot: 20-year-old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is the daughter of single mom and former rock star Donna (Meryl Streep). Sophie is getting married to Sky (Dominic Cooper) and wants her father to be at her wedding; unfortunately, she doesn't know who her father is, as Donna never told her. Donna herself doesn't even know, having slept with three guys right around the time she became pregnant: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård). Unbeknownst to her mother, Sophie invites all three possible dads to her wedding to try and find her natural father.

Throw in a Greek island, the other two members of Donna's former girl group (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) and a dozen ABBA songs, and Hilarity Ensues.


A sequel to the film, titled Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, was released in July of 2018.

Mamma Mia contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Bill Austin becomes Bill Anderson in the film, since he's played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Related to the above, Bill Austin was Australian in the stage version, but became Swedish in the film.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The film came out in 2008, though the original stage musical premiered in 1999. 20-year-old Sophie is explicitly said to have been conceived "at the end of flower power", i.e. the early sixties to late seventies. This and the fact that the musical seems to take place during Internet adoption time, what with Sky's advertising venture, clocks the action in at the early to mid nineties. In the stage musical, Sky also mentions the drachma ("You have to move with the times, Donna. No more drachmas under the mattress."), Greece's currency prior to the Euro replacing it in 2001.
    • The stage version is indirectly stated to take place in 2000. While the year of Donna's diary entries is not mentioned in the film, the stage version has Sophie point out that the diary is from 1979, and as the three potential fathers recount their last encounters with Donna, all three of them say that they last saw her "21 years ago". In the first year of the London production, the diary was from 1978, which set the musical in the then-present year 1999. After 2000, the diary remained dated 1979 likely to avoid leaving the 1970's decade.
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    • The sequel slams the nail in the coffin at the film (and stage musical) taking place in 2000. In 1979, 19 year old Donna gets pregnant and Sophie is born in 1980 (which fits with "the end of flower power") and she's 20 in the film, so that places Mamma Mia! in 2000 and Here We Go Again in 2005 (despite the film featuring technology such as iPhones that were not around until later)
  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity:
    • Judging from how he's vested, if the priest isn't Catholic, then he's Orthodox. Either way, you'd expect he would refuse to marry Sam to Donna, as he had just revealed that he had gotten divorced.
    • The priest has an Irish accent (the actor's own) and a line of dialogue seems to imply Donna, or at least her mother was Catholic so it is probably intended to be a Catholic wedding.
    • Very likely the priest was Church of England/Anglican/Episcopalian.
  • Audience Participation: On stage, audience members are encouraged to sing, clap, and dance along. About a month and a half after the film's U.S. release, Universal shipped out a "sing-along" version with the lyrics appearing on screen.
  • Bouquet Toss: During the wedding scene in the stage musical, Donna tosses the wedding bouquet. Tanya catches it and is thrilled at first... until she sees that Pepper is even more thrilled. Tanya promptly throws the bouquet to Rosie, who throws it back to Tanya. The two women play hot potato with the bouquet until Rosie decides to give it to the orchestra conductor.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In the stage musical, during the song "I Do, I Do, I Do", Rosie hands her camera to the orchestra conductor to take a photo of the cast. At the end of the song, Rosie throws the wedding bouquet to the conductor after she and Tanya refused it. In some productions, it gets thrown into the audience instead.
    • In the film's closing sequence, Donna looks towards the camera and asks the audience, "Do you want another one?!" before singing "Waterloo".
  • Bride and Switch: During the song "Under Attack", a nightmare sequence only present in the stage musical, Sophie's three potential dads walk an unknown bride across the stage. The bride lifts the veil and turns to the audience to reveal that it's Sky.
  • Call-Back: At the beginning, Rosie describes herself as a lone wolf. Bill describes himself as the same later on, which is the cue she needs to pursue him.
  • Chick Flick: The fifth highest-grossing film of 2008, and targeted at female audiences to boot!
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Pretty much the entire "Take A Chance On Me" sequence. Rosie gets Bill and Harry tangos with his boyfriend.
  • Creator Cameo: Benny Andersson appears as a piano player during "Dancing Queen." Bjorn Ulvaeus appears as a member of the Greek Pantheon during "Waterloo." Both men also make cameos in the sequel.
  • Demoted to Extra: The character Eddie in the stage musical is reduced to a background character in the film and has no lines at all. Pepper is also less prominent in the film, so much that he is never referred to by name on screen. Both characters are completely taken out of the scene where Tanya and Rosie arrive on the island, which is where Pepper is properly introduced to the former and immediately tries to make his move (although both men are present in a deleted portion of the scene available on the DVD release).
  • Deuteragonist: The movie is just as much about Donna as it is about Sophie. After all, what director on Earth is going to cast Meryl Streep in a supporting role?
  • Double-Meaning Title: Everyone knows the musical is named for the song, Mamma Mia, which is about being cheated on. But then, the musical is also about the relationship between a mother and her daughter, in the Adriatic Sea no less.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Not counting the prologue, which takes place three months before everything else, the whole show takes place over two days, with the intermission (if you're watching the stage version) taking place overnight.
  • Genki Girl: Sophie, and the older women despite their age, are quite energetic.
  • Gigantic Moon: In the stage musical, one of these appears during the final number "I Have a Dream", silhouetting Sophie and Sky as they walk offstage at the end.
  • Greek Chorus: Literally! A chorus of Greek extras chimes in as the background vocals during the musical numbers, and it is staged in a way that looks like they're commenting on the characters' predicaments.
  • Hollywood Night: "I Have A Dream" and several other "night" scenes are well-lit enough to see the actors' faces.
  • Honorary Uncle: Rosie and Tanya are "Auntie Rosie" and "Auntie Tanya" to Sophie. They're her mother's closest friends and knew her growing up. In the beginning she greets both fondly.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: This might be the case with Donna and her ex- lover Harry, who comes out as gay and nodding flirtatiously at his boyfriend in the crowd but still acknowledging Donna as "the first and last woman I ever loved".
  • Incredibly Long Note: In the stage musical, the final note of "The Winner Takes It All" is sung for as long as the actress playing Donna can hold it. One of the most notable performances was by Carolee Carmello, who played Donna in the Broadway production in the late 2000's.
  • Jukebox Musical: A Gene Hunting plot on a Greek island with ABBA songs peppered in.
  • Mascot's Name Goes Unchanged: In many foreign adaptations of the stage musical, some of the characters' names are changed (e.g. Pepper is known as "Chili" in the Spanish productions), but Donna and Sophie's are always the same, although the latter's name sometimes has the spelling changed appropriately for the language (e.g. "Sofi" for the Spanish productions).
  • No Indoor Voice: In the movie, all the women qualify. Peculiarly during the scene where Sophie loudly sings and narrates her mother's diary entries of her past lovers to her friends and some of the passerbys looking at her in shock and confusion.
  • Once a Performance: There are two long pauses in the song "I Do, I Do, I Do" in which all eyes go to the character being exhorted to make the vows. At least one audience member will keep singing.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Pepper's name is implied to be a nickname; his real name is never mentioned. In the stage musical, Tanya takes a wild guess at its meaning.
    Tanya: Because you're hot?
    Eddie: No. Because he gets up your nose.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In the film, after the bachelorette party, both Bill and Harry are trying to tell the other that they found out that they're Sophie's father (at least that's what they think). However, Bill thinks Harry is trying to Come Out to him, while Harry thinks Bill is trying to admit to hooking up Rosie.
  • Pair the Spares: Not in a relationship sense, but in the stage musical, Tanya and Harry bow together and are often paired together for any dancing in the finale, because Sam/Donna and Bill/Rosie have paired off romantically. The same applies to the film. Earlier in the story, Rosie promises to keep the men distracted the day of the wedding, so she goes fishing with Bill while Tanya keeps Harry busy on the beach.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: In the stage musical, Tanya and Rosie find an old poster for their girl group, Donna and the Dynamos. Donna enters the room in a frantic state. Her friends surprise her with the poster, but Donna, not wanting any more reminders of her past that has come back to haunt her, promptly rips and crumples it up after Rosie suggests displaying it in the taverna's bar.[[Note:Although the script calls for Donna to rip the poster, many amateur productions omit this action to avoid the expense of making multiple posters.]]
    Rosie: You should hang that in the bar. Show Sophie what a funky mom she's got.
    Donna: No! Get rid of it! Burn it! I never want to see it again!
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The entire chain of misunderstandings running throughout the film is set up by Sophie inviting her three potential Dads to the wedding without telling anyone else, and insisting that they not tell anyone else that she invited them.
    • The movie's background is set up by young Sam leaving to return to his fiancee without telling Donna that he was only returning to call off the wedding and turn right around and come back to her. If he'd told her that before he left, presumably she'd have waited for him instead of shacking up with two other men on the rebound.
  • Power Trio: Actually four of them—Donna and the Dynamos; Sophie, Lisa and Ali; the three possible dads; and Sky, Pepper, and Eddie, at least in the stage version. In the film, Pepper and Eddie are not seen bonding with Sky as much as in the original production, and the latter is reduced to a background character with no lines.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Sophie thinks Donna wants to cancel the wedding, she goes off and promises to "do it right" and not follow Donna's footsteps of not doing "the whole marriage-and-babies thing".
    Sophie: I love Sky and I want to be with him! And I don't want my children growing up not knowing who their father is, because it's crap!
  • Red Filter of Doom: In the stage musical, red lighting is often used during the song "Mamma Mia" to accompany Donna's anguish.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Donna hears word spreading across the island that three men claiming to be Sophie's possible fathers have arrived to attend her wedding. Donna initially refuses to believe these rumors to be true but when they turn out to be truth, Donna refuses to believe that having her three exes attending her daughter's wedding to be "a good thing" and goes out of her way to try to sabotage Sophie's invites and scare off her exes. Unsurprisingly, this only cause more conflict between Donna and her daughter Sophie.
  • Rule of Funny: One review described the film as the closest thing we'll ever come to seeing A-list celebrities doing drunken karaoke.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: In-universe. Sophie has found her mother's diary from the summer when Sophie was conceived, and every time Donna is about to get intimate with one of the possible fathers, the narrative trails off with an ellipsis, read out loud by Sophie as "dot dot dot."
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • In the film, Sky is shirtless for the entire "Lay All Your Love On Me" scene. In the stage version, he is stripped down to a speedo by the other guys during the song.
    • Bill has one in the film the morning after the bachelorette party.
    • Towards the end of the film, Donna rips off Sam's shirt when everyone is doused with water. According to Pierce Brosnan, this was improvised by Meryl Streep.
    • The "Does Your Mother Know?" scene in the film has Pepper and most of the male ensemble shirtless throughout.
    • Harry has one in the stage musical during a beach scene when he emerges from the offstage water and asks Tanya for advice on what a bride's father should do at a wedding. In the film, the two are in a paddleboat during this exchange, so Harry wears a lifejacket instead.
  • Shout-Out: "Bright, Harry Bright" (as James Bond is standing next to him, no less!)
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Way toward the Idealism end. The three potential dads are all good men who are willing to step up, the Greek natives are all friendly and welcoming, there is No Antagonist, and everything works out neatly in the end.
  • Silly Song: Just how many of those songs actually advance the story or tell us something important about the characters?
  • Slut-Shaming: Averted! Donna slept with three different men in a short enough period of time that any of them could potentially be Sophie's father, but this isn't presented as a moral failing. Sophie would like to know who her father is, but she openly states that Donna could've slept with hundreds of men for all she cares. The only person who judges Donna for it is Donna's own mother, who is not part of her life — and, according to Donna's friends, was a deeply unpleasant woman, anyway.
  • Stealth Pun: Oh right, ha ha, those guys singing in the background are a Greek Chorus. Lampshaded by:
    Rosie: It's very Greek.
  • Tell Me About My Father: The plot of the first film. Sophie asking her mother Donna who her real father is. It's because of lack of mother-daughter communication that prompts Sophie to locate her three possible fathers and invite them to her wedding.
  • There Is Only One Bed: In the stage musical, Donna's room only has one bed, so Tanya and Rosie flip a coin for it. Rosie wins, and Tanya is forced to sleep on an air mattress, which she tries to blow up with her mouth. In the film, there are two beds, so this isn't a problem.
    Rosie: Blow, don't suck.
  • Titled After the Song: Named after the song "Mamma Mia".
  • Title Drop: They sing the title in the line "Mamma Mia, here I go again…". Plus the story is about a mother/daughter relationship and how it would be affected by the addition of another parent.
  • True Blue Femininity:
    • During the Dancing Queen sequence, all the women are donning blue pieces of clothing. Donna also wears a blue dress during the "SOS" sequence.
    • In the original stage productions, Donna's main outfit in Act I is a light blue shirt and denim blue overalls. She also wears a blue robe at the beginning of Act II. Sophie wears an all-blue outfit for most of Act I as well, consisting of a light blue crop top and dark blue skirt.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: After the bachelorette party in the film, Donna/Sophie is fretting to Rosie & Tanya/Ali & Lisa over the three-dads-present issue. Rosie & Tanya/Ali & Lisa decide to take the men out fishing to keep them distracted.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: After Sky and Sophie decide not to get married yet, Sam decides to pop the question to Donna, with the crowd singing in chorus and all.
  • Wedding Finale: The end is supposed to be Sophie and Sky's wedding, but they call it off so rather than let it go to waste, Sam and Donna marry instead.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: The whole plot of the film. Sophie trying to find out who her father is before her wedding day. Sophie eventually decides she doesn't care, though Word of God is that the father is Bill. Supported in-universe by his statement that the money Donna inherited from Bill's aunt "stayed in the family", although how his aunt could have known that when Donna didn't is anyone's guess.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Word for word when Sophie and Sky decide not to get married, thus Donna and Sam get married instead.

Alternative Title(s): Mamma Mia


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